USAG HUMPHREYS, South Korea – Small groups of Soldiers from 3rd Military Intelligence Battalion, 501st Military Intelligence Brigade, meet Monday through Friday at Zoeckler Field, between 9 a.m and noon, to conduct physical training (PT) sessions lead by 1st Lt. Savannah Baker, Alpha Company administration officer and RC-7 pilot.
The workouts, Baker said, are focused on improving physical fitness and strength and are usually attended by six to 15 Soldiers to meet the guidelines of social distancing and not gathering in groups larger than 15.
Baker explained the motivation to start her fitness program at Zoeckler Field stemmed from Camp Humphreys moving to Health Protection Condition (HPCON) Charlie Plus, which caused gyms on post to close. She said this caused a lot of changes not only within her formation, but across the entire post.
“So my biggest goal was to not let the Soldiers’ physical and mental agility be disrupted,” said Baker. “To get the non-mission essential personnel out of the barracks and keep them active, interacting and motivating each other through the workouts.”
A lot of the people in my shop, the S-1 or administration section, she said, are not considered mission essential, so they would be at home throughout the day, which can be really challenging. So it was good to get them together, both to see each other and for accountability. She said she also opened the PT sessions up to other sections, as well as to some of the doctors at 65th Medical Brigade, so they could participate and benefit from the workouts.
Kiera McConnell, a 3rd MI Battalion paralegal specialist, said that she and a lot of other Soldiers that have attended have really enjoyed the workouts.
“When we went to (HPCON) Charlie Plus we were all were kind of trapped in our rooms and couldn’t go to the gyms,” said McConnell. “So it’s great to have these workouts that we can come to that are always at the same time and regain a sense of routine.”
However, the emphasis for fitness in the battalion didn’t start with the COVID-19 outbreak.
“For the past several months the 3rd MI Battalion command team has been focused on developing a holistic fitness program focused on mind, body, and spirit strength and resiliency,” said Maj. Ariel Schuetz, battalion operations officer. “When the battalion was impacted by COVID-19, both battalion and company level leadership, as well as the UMT (Unit Ministry Team) stepped up to find new ways to conduct the same type of support in virtual or distributed methods.”
Schuetz said that during fall of 2019, their battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Vanessa Gonzalez developed the “3rd MI Battalion Fitness” Facebook page as part of an Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) coaching strategy. The page focuses on individuals posting videos of themselves achieving their own fitness goals and motivating other members of the battalion to achieve theirs. The page initially offered guidance on form and exercises to improve ACFT scores and links to helpful fitness programs and exercises that individuals could incorporate into their PT routines.
Capt. R. Michael Anderson, chaplain for 3rd MI Battalion, and his religious support specialists were also leading in-person weekly spiritual fitness sessions as part of the battalion’s physical training program. When the HPCON level increased, restricting unit level PT, the UMT shifted their engagement strategy to posting spiritual fitness videos on the battalion fitness page.
Anderson and his religious support specialists, Pfcs. Hendryx Cotto and Carlos Matamoros, also participate in the fitness group on Zoecker Field. Anderson said he feels like the fitness sessions allow Soldiers to maintain a routine and provide consistency in the midst of very non routine conditions, which he feels is important.
“Then, of course, there is the physical fitness part, you know,” said Anderson. “Getting out all the angst and the stuff that’s pent up inside, and having a physical outlet to do that has been very influential. It’s really been a best practice in the brigade.”
Coto said the UMT has been attending different section PT sessions throughout the battalion to interact with Soldiers in those sections and provide a spiritual fitness aspect to the training when time is allotted by the leader of the PT group.
Capt. Dan Park, the battalion flight surgeon, has also played an active role in the maintaining the health of the 3rd MI Battalion as a part of the fitness initiative, said Schuetz. Park actively provides information to the formation on COVID-19 preventative measures, health tips including nutritional guidance, and ways to remain mentally and physically fit despite gyms being closed.
Schuetz said 3rd MI Battalion’s leadership team is engaged in a concerted effort to care for the mental, physical, and spiritual health and well-being of their battalion’s Soldiers, KATUSA (Korean Augmentation To the United States Army) Soldiers, and families. Through the active use of social media platforms, battalion and company leadership have been able to stay connected with Soldiers and family members to help mitigate the effects of isolation. She said the team is focused on supporting Soldiers and their families through this challenging time by providing them with the information and resources they need remain healthy and active.
The 501st Military Intelligence Brigade provides indications and early warning of actions by opposing forces that could threaten the tense but stable peace in the Republic of Korea. In the event of hostilities, the brigade’s mission shifts to providing combined, multi-discipline intelligence and force protection support to the United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command, the CFC Ground Component Command and their subordinate units.